The way of the cross continues for the peloton of the Tour of Italy with new cases of Covid, falls and abandonments in shambles including that of Tao Geoghegan Hart, third in the general classification, during the 11th stage won by the German Pascal Ackermann, Wednesday in Tortona.
Accustomed to suffering, their daily bread in an often ruthless sport, the riders are served on this Giro. Under terrible weather conditions, the 106th edition has been transformed into a mobile field hospital which fills up day after day, with illnesses and accidents.
While we are only halfway through the race, 36 runners have already had to give up. Given the state of the peloton, in which many riders are victims of Covid or gastric problems, we are moving towards a record abstention on arrival in Rome on May 28.
Particularly sharp since the start of the race, the sword of Covid-19 fell on Wednesday on the poor Soudal-Quick Step team which, after the abandonment of its leader Remco Evenepoel on Sunday, recorded four new positive cases.
The Italians Andrea Vendrame (AG2R-Citroën) and Stefano Gandin (Corratec) also had to give up. All teams combined, fifteen riders have had to pack up since the start of the Giro on May 6 because of the resurgence of the virus.
“The atmosphere within the team is below zero. There are only three runners left at the table, it’s really sad”, commented one of the survivors of Soudal-Quick Step, Pieter Serry, disappointed and for whom the end of the Giro promises to be endless.
Another team left feathers on Wednesday: Ineos. However, the British team was looking good at the start of the stage in Camaiore, with no less than five riders in the first eleven overall, including the pink jersey Geraint Thomas.
Geoghegan Hart in ambulance
Spared until then, his team almost lost everything suddenly when, in a bend 68 km from the finish, Alessandro Covi slipped on the wet road.
The rider from the UAE team took half of the Ineos team in his fall, including Geraint Thomas, as well as the Slovenian Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
The British pink jersey and its Slovenian runner-up were able to leave quickly and visibly without any damage. But Geoghegan Hart, who was the only former Giro winner in the running (he won in 2020), remained on the ground, before being evacuated on a stretcher and taken away by ambulance.
A few kilometers further, the Spaniard Oscar Rodriguez (Movistar) also gave up after hitting a post head-on, yet another accident in a nightmarish Giro.
The abandonment of Geoghegan Hart is a blow for Ineos which loses its co-leader with Geraint Thomas and was likely to impose its collective strength on Roglic. Especially since Pavel Sivakov was also caught in the fall and gave up several minutes to the general.
In the midst of all these misfortunes, there was still a happy man at the finish of the longest stage (219 km) of this edition: the winner, Pascal Ackermann (UAE), who sprinted a small peloton in front of the Italian Jonathan Milan and the Briton Mark Cavendish.
“It was very tight, but I’m so happy, so happy,” exulted the German.
The rest of the peloton thought above all of dressing its wounds, hoping not to be overtaken in turn by the disease.
“And to think that we haven’t even attacked the mountain yet,” sighed Australian Simon Clarke.